Leveraging the ground-track resonance capture and escape for precise and efficient orbital transfers

Boumchita, Wail and Feng, Jinglang (2023) Leveraging the ground-track resonance capture and escape for precise and efficient orbital transfers. In: 2023 AAS/AIAA Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, 2023-08-13 - 2023-08-17, Big Sky Resort.

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Vesta, the second largest celestial object in the main asteroid belt, was visited and studied by the Dawn mission in 2011. The spacecraft employed solar-electric propulsion, which generated continuous low-thrust. During the slow descent from high altitude mission orbit (HAMO) to low altitude mission orbit (LAMO), the spacecraft encountered the 1:1 ground-track resonance, with the potential of being captured and trapped in it. The objective of this paper is to present a workflow for designing orbit transfers from HAMO to LAMO by leveraging the effects of the 1:1 ground-track resonance, achieved only by adjusting the thrust magnitude value throughout the descent. Firstly, the dynamics are modeled by considering the irregular gravitational field up to the fourth order and degree, while the thrust remains constant in magnitude and opposes the velocity direction of the spacecraft. Subsequently, a reference case of capture into the 1:1 ground-track resonance is considered, and the effects of the resonance on the trajectory of the spacecraft are described. Following that, the workflow adopted for designing orbit transfers during Dawn's approach phase is presented, and a case study is conducted to apply the workflow. This paper contributes to raising awareness regarding the risk of resonance capture and highlights strategies for escaping such resonances, thereby facilitating the design of future space missions to asteroids.